Sam Stein and Ryan Grim at the Huffington Post publish a devastating critique of President Obama and the White House "strategy" on health care aka what many people have believed all along: Not only is the President not behind the public option but he is working against it.
President Barack Obama is actively discouraging Senate Democrats in their effort to include a public insurance option with a state opt-out clause as part of health care reform. In its place, say multiple Democratic sources, Obama has indicated a preference for an alternative policy, favored by the insurance industry, which would see a public plan "triggered" into effect in the future by a failure of the industry to meet certain benchmarks.
The administration retreat runs counter to the letter and the spirit of Obama's presidential campaign. The man who ran on the "Audacity of Hope" has now taken a more conservative stand than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), leaving progressives with a mix of confusion and outrage. Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill have battled conservatives in their own party in an effort to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. Now tantalizingly close, they are calling for Obama to step up.
"The leadership understands that this is a somewhat risky strategy, but we may be within striking distance. A signal from the president could be enough to put us over the top," said one Senate Democratic leadership aide. Such pleading is exceedingly rare on Capitol Hill and comes only after Senate leaders exhausted every effort to encourage Obama to engage.
Two progressive Democratic senators, Tom Harkin (IA) and Sherrod Brown (OH), confirmed the report. Harkin actually called Obama's support "lukewarm" at best, AMERICAblog reports. One Democratic senator went further: Russ Feingold (WI) appeared on Face the Nation and reiterated he would not support health care "reform" without a public option and would oppose the "trigger" proposed by Republican Olympia Snowe.
It's remarkable that what the President and the White House want remains an open question. Even more remarkable is their 11-dimensional chess "strategy": Give up your own plan and push the plan proposed by one Republican senator just to get her vote.